[ISEA2011] Panel: Jill Walker Ret­tberg – The Ge­ne­ol­ogy of a Cre­ative Com­mu­nity: Why is af­ter­noon the “grand­daddy” of hy­per­text fic­tion?

Panel Statement

Panel: Creativity as a Social Ontology

Michael Joyce’s hy­per­text fic­tion af­ter­noon, a story was first pub­licly pre­sented in 1987, and is gen­er­ally known as the “grand­daddy” of elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture (Coover, 1992). It has been an­thol­o­gised by Nor­ton, is sub­stan­tially analysed and dis­cussed in dozens of aca­d­e­mic trea­tises and is taught or at least men­tioned in al­most every course taught on elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture. But af­ter­noon is not the first work of elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture. Why did this par­tic­u­lar work be­come the prog­en­i­tor of a com­mu­nity of writ­ers, a com­mon ref­er­ence point for schol­ars and stu­dents for the next 25 years? There were al­ter­na­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties. (The case has al­ready been made that in­ter­ac­tive fic­tion is equally a form of elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture – but IF is a dis­tinct genre with a dis­tinct com­mu­nity.) Why didn’t bp Nichols’ work “First Screen­ing: Com­puter Poems” (1984) start a move­ment? Why are there no cric­i­tal dis­cus­sions of Judy Mal­loy’s data­base nar­ra­tive “Uncle Roger”, pub­lished on the WELL in 1986/97? This brief paper will ques­tion the role of the myth­i­cal prog­en­i­tor in the cre­ation of a cre­ative com­muntiy. Why do we tend to imag­ine a fa­ther or “grand­daddy” of a field? Are cer­tain kinds of work more likely to be adopted as prog­en­i­tor of a field, or does the choice of prog­en­i­tor de­pend more on so­cial net­works, modes of dis­tri­b­u­tion or even chance? Would elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture have been dif­fer­ent today if Nichols or Mal­loy had been crowned as the grand­par­ent of the field?

  • Jill Walker Ret­tberg is Pro­fes­sor of Dig­i­tal Cul­ture at the Uni­ver­sity of Bergen, Nor­way. Her re­search in­ves­ti­gates how peo­ple tell sto­ries on­line. She has pub­lished a book on Blog­ging (Polity Press, 2008), co-edited an an­thol­ogy about World of War­craft, and has pub­lished over 20 pa­pers on so­cial media, elec­tronic lit­er­a­ture and cre­ative prac­tices.

Full text (PDF) p. 2023-2029